How to Converse with Theatre Nerds (and Survive a Tony Awards Party)

The Tony Awards night is Christmas for theatre people (or actually Hanukkah would be more fitting, wouldn’t it?).
It’s the magical June night when a group of the best people in the world (theatre kids) pile on the couch to unashamedly geek out and fangirl for a solid 3 hours. Public Tonys viewing parties are some of few places where you can bet a group of 100+ strangers will think it totally natural to discuss the worst Tony Awards tragedies of all time, and instead of giving you weird looks when you burst into some Broadway tunes, they’ll pick up the harmony alongside you. And then BOOM! BFFs for the evening.
But it is possible that some run-of-the-mill fans step foot into such a gathering without a full breadth of Tony knowledge and love for obscure Sondheim shows. My heart goes out to those who receive incredulous looks for not knowing who Patti LuPone is or the number of minutes in a year. So to rescue those people, I have compiled a simple cheat sheet to surviving any conversation with a hardcore theatre nerd. And coming out of a Tonys party without looking like a fool.
  1. Eight times a week. This refers to the Broadway performance schedule. And you will hear this phrase every five and a half seconds during the Tonys. Please note that when someone says it, it’s bound to be part of what they consider a really profound statement. Practice your adequately awed face in the mirror.
  2. THEATRE. Because theatre nerds are anglophiles, it’s “theatre,” not “theater.” To answer your question, yes they can tell from your voice how you’re spelling the word in your head.
  3. OBC. This stands for “Original Broadway Cast” and is a vital step in understanding nerd-speak. Theatre nerds will repeatedly remind you that the original actors to play [name that role] on Broadway were the best, though hipster nerds prefer the original out-of-town tryout understudy.
  4. Ensemble. No one refers to the “chorus.” The cool kids say “ensemble” instead, because chorus sounds as though the members of the company are less important. Tiny, laughable distinction, really. But seriously, don’t say chorus.
  5. Colm Wilkinson. Aka, “Mr. Les Mis.” This brilliant guy was the original Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on the West End and Broadway in the ‘80s. He fittingly played the bishop in the Les Mis movie as well. Because he’s perfect.
  6. Idina Menzel. I dearly hope anyone who steps foot in a Tonys party now knows her name, but what’s a cheat sheet for if not to save the day? She originated the role of Elphaba in Wicked, for which she won a Tony Award. And oh yeah, she voiced Elsa in Frozen. And she’s perfect.
  7. Aaron Tveit. He’ll honestly never stop being a relevant, gorgeous leading man, having made himself known through his appearance as Gabe in Next to Normal, Enjorlas in the Les Miserables movie, and of course Danny in the recent Grease Live. But get in line, because everyone and their mother is in love with him.
  8. Andrew Lloyd Webber. British composer who wrote many, many award-winning musicals including the currently running Sunset Boulevard, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. His works are constantly produced on and off Broadway, and you could say they will never die (with the exception, of course, of The Phantom of the Opera 2: Love Never Dies).
  9. Broadway is always better. If you tell a theatre nerd that you loved Les Mis after only seeing the movie, you’ll get the death stare. Even worse would be if you let it slip that you actually liked a movie soundtrack better than an OBC recording. Rule of thumb: Terrence Mann beats Russell Crowe any day.
  10. Lin-Manuel MirandaOk, if you don’t know him, I’m not helping you.

Follow @BwayGinger on Twitter for more Broadway love, Atlanta theatre news, and sassy live-tweets. And then let’s be best friends, ok?

A version of this piece was originally published as part of the KCACTF Region IV Institute for Theatre Journalism Advocacy. You can read the dated, pre-Hamilton version from February 2014 here.

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